Key Verse: “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.”
THE RAISING OF JESUS from the dead is revealed throughout the Scriptures as an assurance of the resurrection hope for all mankind. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (I Cor. 15:22; I John 2:2; Acts 24:15) So important is the doctrine of the resurrection, the Apostle Paul declares that without it our hope and faith is vain.—I Cor. 15:16-18,32
Today’s lesson considers the first essential element of the resurrection doctrine—the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. We note that on several occasions our Lord had declared he would rise from the dead after three days. (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19) We also recall that the chief priests and Pharisees were aware of Jesus’ prediction, and feared some of his disciples might steal his body and claim that he had risen from the dead. To prevent this from happening, an appeal was made to Pilate to seal the tomb with a stone and set a watch until three days had passed.—Matt. 27:62-66
The Scriptures provide several lines of testimony in confirmation of the resurrection of Jesus. One was a “great earthquake.” Some have hypothesized that this was not actually an earthquake, but descriptive of the confusion of the guards at the appearance of an “angel of the Lord” which descended from heaven. (Matt. 28:1,2) However, the Greek word from which it is translated, seismos, is also rendered “earthquake” in the account of Paul and Silas when they were imprisoned in Philippi. (Acts 16:19-28) Both instances resulted in the earth shaking and moving. In the case of Paul and Silas, the prison doors were opened and their bonds were loosed. Here the stone was rolled back from the sealed tomb. Such was a miraculous evidence of God’s mighty power which he exercised in the resurrection of his Son.
Another attestation of Jesus’ resurrection was that to which the angel called attention. On the third day at dawn, women came to see the tomb and found it empty. The angel then announced his resurrection, saying, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”—Matt. 28:5,6; Luke 24:1-6
Jesus himself provided the most convincing proofs his resurrection when he appeared to his followers on several occasions. In the account cited above, the angel continued speaking to the women: “Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead. … And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” (Matt. 28:7-10) Note the clarity in the angel’s statement that Jesus had risen, and the comfort given by the risen Lord to these devoted women.
In other appearances Jesus was recognized only by his voice, or by the way he broke bread. He was seen suddenly in a closed room, and on another occasion appeared to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee as they were fishing. By personally declaring his resurrection, Jesus gave encouragement to his followers then, as well as throughout the ensuing Gospel Age.